Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Blogger: 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology

Our guest blogger this week is Steven Worker from the California State 4-H Office.  We are thrilled that 4-H will be joining the Coalition at the Bay Area Science Festival on November 3, 2012 at AT&T Park in San Francisco!  Read on to learn about some of the exciting after school science programs 4-H is doing.

Did you know that for the past 110 years, 4-H programs nationwide have been engaging youth in experientially-based science, engineering, nutrition, citizenship, and agricultural education? Often people are surprised at the scope and breadth of 4-H programming due to the often heard stereotype of 4-H as agriculture and livestock. Today, 4-H has projects in many different areas including aerospace to nutrition, leadership to civic engagement, and plant to animal science. Nationally, 4-H programs serve more than 6.5 million youth, ages 5-19, annual in rural, suburban, and urban settings. California 4-H involves 210,000 youth members supported by 14,000 adult volunteer educators in 4-H clubs, camps, short-term projects, and school-enrichment activities. Another often-missed fact about 4-H is the that it’s the youth outreach and education arm of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). 4-H is housed in the University of California Cooperative Extension office in almost every county with over 800 4-H Clubs in California.

I started 4-H as an eleven year old in the 4-H rocketry project in Santa Barbara County. I fell in love with 4-H and haven’t left since! Now my professional work at the California State 4-H Office based on the University of California, Davis campus is to strengthen programs, offer professional development, develop curriculum, and evaluate efforts related to 4-H science, engineering, and technology. At our core, 4-H science and engineering programs combine the strengths of experiential education and inquiry-based science learning with a positive youth development framework that holistically addresses the developmental and educational needs of young people.

In 2008, California 4-H launched its 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Initiative to strengthen its SET programs. The goals of the California 4-H SET Initiative are to improve 4-H members’ understanding of science and help address the critical need for more scientists and engineers in the workforce. 4-H SET programs help youth improve their knowledge and skills around science, engineering, and technology; connect learning with real-world situations where youth can adopt and use new science methods or improved technology to solve problems; and, in the long term, increase the number and diversity of youth pursuing higher education and careers in science, engineering, and technology fields. Evaluation of our programs demonstrates that 4-H works! Check out the latest research for California at or nationally at

I am particularly excited about four 4-H SET programs that we’ve launched in the last few years. 
Robotics: In 2010, California 4-H developed the 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum. The curriculum engages youth, ages 10 through 13, in understanding scientific concepts and processes, the engineering design process cycle, and technology creation and building. The activities provided experiences by working with household items to complete simple design challenges. Junk Drawer Robotics modules are designed around three phases – to learn (science), to do (engineering), and to make (technology). The activities were designed to be led by an adult or teen facilitator following the experiential learning cycle and promoting inquiry. When I lead Junk Drawer Robotics activities with young people, I am constantly amazed at the creativity and innovative ways youth go about designing, building, and solving the challenges. Read more about the curriculum at

Water Education: In 2010, California 4-H developed and tested a curriculum focused on water conservation and quality. The There’s No New Water! curriculum helps high school-aged youth learn about water resources while improving their science and environmental literacy. This curriculum has an emphasis on service learning where youth apply what they’ve learned in the curriculum to address youth conservation and quality concerns at home, in school, or in their community. After participating in the curriculum, one youth participant said, “I learned that we humans alone add a lot of pollution to our water system. We need to be more careful with what chemicals we use, what we do with garbage, and other waste. I really don't want to run out of clean water.” Find out more about There’s No New Water at

Family Science: For many children, having a parent or family member support an interest in science is an important part of learning science. The 4-H SLO Scientists program was conceived and piloted in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County to address the desire and need to involve youth and adults together in hands-on science. This helps improve science processing skills, science literacy and issues of family dynamics. Evaluation of this program shows that youth talk to family members about science and spend more time observing and experimenting after becoming involved. Read more at

4-H National Youth Science Day: Finally, a national movement- On October 10, 2012, millions of young people across the nation will become scientists for the day during the fifth annual 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD). NYSD is the premier national rallying event for year-round 4-H Science programming, bringing together youth, volunteers and educators from the nation’s land-grant universities to simultaneously complete the National Science Experiment. In this year's experiment, the 4-H Eco-Bot Challenge, youth will enhance their engineering skills by assembling their own Eco-Bots and surface controls to manage an environmental clean-up. Youth will then test the interaction between the Eco-Bot’s design features and various surface control configurations to determine the most effective clean-up solution for the simulated spill. Find out more at

 As these examples show, there are a variety of 4-H programs focusing on science, engineering, and technology. Of course, while I did not share any examples of agriculture and livestock, many youth are involved with 4-H projects in these areas. For me, the take home message about 4-H is that by basing programs on a positive youth development framework,  4-H provides youth with an opportunity to develop strong, positive relationships with adults while engaging in meaningful science, engineering, and technology activities which helps youth ignite a passion for learning. At the end of the day, I think most out-of-school time programs are striving to have youth become healthy, happy, thriving adults who make a positive contribution in their communities.


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